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About York Medieval Probate Index 1267-1500

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This index covers over 10,000 wills proved in the Prerogative & Exchequer Courts of York in the period 1267 to 1500. Wills are one of the most important sources for the family historian, and the originals of all the wills indexed here are held at the Borthwick Institute for Archives. Copies of these wills can be ordered online, via the index.

What do these records tell you?
The York Medieval Probate index gives:
  • testator's last name and first name including the last name spelling given in the original (given the age of these documents the spelling which appears on the original can often be archaic)
  • occupation
  • places associated with person
  • type of document (not always a will)
  • language of document (English, French, Latin, or a combination of these)
  • date of will
  • date of probate
  • Borthwick Institute reference to the original document.
The original documents provide a great deal of valuable information to the family historian, and copies of these can be ordered online.

Example index records

Example 1.  Retrieved searching on Agnes Bickman or John Bickman.
Last Name Bickman  
Old Last Name Bekeman Spelling in original document
First Name Agnes  
Sex F  
Occupation Wife of John B., fishmonger NB. the name "John Bickman" is also contained within the database
Place York  
Document type Probate act  
Language Latin  
Date of will - no date given for the will
Date of probate 24 Apr 1397  
Comment -  
Reference code ProbReg 2 volume containing the original
Folio 1v folio within the volume: first folio, verso side

Example 2.
Last Name Seaver  
Old Last Name Sever, Seyver Original document spelling
First Name Henry  
Sex M  
Occupation Master, doctor of divinity  
Place buried Merton collegiate church, Oxon  
Document type Will & codicil(s)  
Language Latin  
Date of will 4 Jul 1471  
Date of probate 20 Sep 1471  
Comment Proved at Canterbury;
approved at York 05/Oct/1471
Reference code ProbReg 4  
Folio 16  

More information on the York Medieval Probate Index
This database makes available for the first time online, and exclusively on British Origins, a comprehensive index to over 10,000 wills proved in the province of York prior to the 16th century, plus related documents. All the original documents are held by the Borthwick Institute.

For many of the people referred to in this index, multiple documents are available, for example a multiple wills, will plus one or more codicils, multiple disputes concerning the will. The different documents are all listed in the index.

Copies of the source documents may be ordered online.

While the great majority of the documents relate to persons with property in Yorkshire, 12 ½% of the records refer to other places: nearly every county in England, plus Ireland, France, Poland, Scotland, Wales. The references to place primarily relate to property held there, but also to the place where the person died, or where they may have lived.

Contents of the database
The database records provide the following information:
  • Testator's Last Name
    Modernised version in cases where the original has archaic spellings
  • Old Last Name
    Spelling in original document. More than one spelling may appear,
    eg: "Ligearde, Lygeard" (for surname = "Legard")
  • First Name
  • Sex
    M(ale) or F(emale)
  • Occupation
    eg "Butcher", "Merchant". Sometimes relationship is shown, eg "Wife of Nicholas", "Son of John", "Widow of William, knight". Titles appear in this field, eg: "Knight, Lord Scrope of Bolton".
  • Place
    Usually contains place where the testator lived, often where they were buried, sometimes both, and sometimes with additional place-related information, eg: "York"; "York (buried Calais, St Mary, FR)"; "Sharlstone, probate act Warmfield (buried Nostell priory)". In a few cases the word "dated" appears against a place name, eg: "York, dated Danzig, PO". This means that the document appears to have been completed at that place, but not necessarily that this is the place where the testator lived.
  • Language
    Latin, French, English or a mixture. The vast majority are in Latin.
  • Date of will
    Usually, but not always present. The year is given as Old Style and New Style for dates before 25 March.
  • Date of probate
    The year is given as Old Style and New Style for dates before 25 March.
  • Document type
    Although the majority of the documents are wills, there are often other document types available. Glossary and abbreviations in the index
  • Comment
    Not often present, but very variable contents, eg: "Place name unidentified"; "Daughter & heir of John de Luttryngton"; "Cancelled - will proved later"; "Adm[instration] granted because executors refused".
  • Reference code
    Identifies the volume at the Borthwick Institute containing the original document. This generally one of the Probate Register volumes, eg: "ProbReg 2".
  • Folio
    The folio (sheet) within the volume containing the original. For example: "61r" means the recto side of folio 61; "179v-180r" means the verso side of folio 179 continued on the recto of folio 180. Note that if you are ordering hard copies from the Borthwick Institute via the British Origins database, the reference data is forwarded automatically to the Institute.

Ordering digital copies of original documents
Borthwick original documents are provided as digitised images, sent by email.

You can order a digitised copy of any document by simply clicking of the "Add to cart" button alongside each record. The cost of each document is £10. (NB If there is more than one document referred to you will receive copies of each.)
The Borthwick Institute aims to complete all customer orders within 28 working days and most orders are fulfilled well within this timescale.

Other "York Series" Probate Indexes
All the indexes to probate documents held at the Borthwick Institute will become available online on British Origins. In addition to the indexes to the Medieval probate records, an index to 54 Peculiar Courts within the Province of York are currently online.

See also:  Help searching York Medieval Probate Index
  Glossary of terms related to probate
  Examples of Documents
  Other York Indexes: York Peculiars Probate Index 1383-1883
  About the Borthwick Institute for Archives
  Article: About Church Courts
  Search the collection
For help negotiating the labyrinth of over 300 pre 1858 probate courts explore our collection of Jeremy Gibson’s probate jurisdiction maps.
Explore Probate Jurisdictions Maps

Borthwick Institute for Archives
The York Series of Probate Indexes are presented in association with the Borthwick Institute for Archives